“How can I prevent my car from smelling like marijuana, because I don’t use marijuana?”: Georgia Criminal Lawyer

In Georgia, the smell of marijuana alone can provide probable cause for a police officer to search your vehicle, detain you, and even arrest you. But a law enforcement officer may be mistaken; the police officer may not actually smell marijuana. Increasingly, with so many products on the market that can smell like pot, a police officer may mistake the odor of a legal product for marijuana, which is illegal in Georgia.

As criminal defense lawyers who handle many marijuana cases, we wanted to take a closer look at this increasingly common scenario. Indeed, a common question we get is: “How can I prevent my car from smelling like marijuana, because I don’t use marijuana?”

Understanding Probable Cause

A product that smells like marijuana can give a police officer probable cause to question you and to start a search.

Probable cause is a legal standard that requires a reasonable basis for believing that a crime may have been committed. For a vehicle search, probable cause means that the officer must have a reasonable belief that evidence of a crime (such as possession of illegal drugs) is present in the vehicle.

Legal Products Can Emit a Smell Similar to Marijuana

There are several legal products that can emit a smell similar to marijuana. These products can sometimes cause confusion or concern due to their distinct, pungent aroma. Here are some of the most common ones:

1. Hemp Products

  • Hemp Flowers: Dried hemp flowers can look and smell almost identical to marijuana but contain less than 0.3% THC, making them legal under federal law in the United States.
  • Hemp-derived CBD Products: Some CBD oils, tinctures, or edibles derived from hemp may have a similar scent due to the presence of terpenes.

2. Cannabis-derived Products

  • CBD-rich Cannabis Strains: Some cannabis strains bred for high CBD and low THC content can smell like marijuana but are legally distinct.

3. Industrial Hemp

  • Hemp-based Fabrics and Ropes: These can sometimes retain the characteristic smell of hemp, which can be similar to marijuana.

4. Essential Oils and Terpenes

  • Terpene Extracts: Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in many plants, including cannabis. Terpenes like myrcene, limonene, and pinene can smell similar to marijuana and are used in various legal products such as essential oils, aromatherapy products, and even some cleaning agents.
  • Hemp-based Essential Oils: These oils can have a scent reminiscent of marijuana due to the similar terpene profiles.

5. Incense and Scented Candles

  • Cannabis-scented Incense and Candles: Some incense sticks and candles are specifically designed to mimic the smell of cannabis and are sold legally.

6. Herbal Blends

  • Legal Herbal Smoking Blends: Some herbal blends sold for smoking or vaporizing are legal and can contain ingredients like damiana or mugwort, which may have a scent similar to marijuana.

7. Hops

  • Hops for Brewing: Hops, used in brewing beer, share many terpenes with cannabis and can have a similar skunky aroma.

8. Certain Plants and Herbs

  • Tomato Plants: Some people find that tomato plants can emit a scent that is somewhat similar to marijuana.
  • Skunk Cabbage: This plant has a strong odor that can be reminiscent of skunky cannabis.

9. Synthetic Cannabinoids

  • Spice/K2: These are synthetic cannabinoids that can smell like marijuana when smoked.

10. Personal Care Products

  • Cannabis-scented Body Care Products: Some body lotions, perfumes, and soaps are designed to mimic the smell of cannabis.

11. Certain Foods

  • Fermented Foods: Some fermented foods like certain cheeses or sauerkraut can sometimes emit strong, pungent odors that might be mistaken for marijuana.

Hiding the Odor of Products that Smell Like Marijuana

Hiding the odor of products that smell like marijuana in a car requires a combination of strategies to eliminate, mask, and prevent the odor from lingering. Here are some effective methods:

1. Ventilation

  • Drive with Windows Open: Allow fresh air to circulate and help disperse the smell.
  • Use Air Conditioning: Set the air conditioning to recirculate to help filter the air inside the car.

2. Air Purifiers and Filters

  • Portable Air Purifier: Use a small, car-friendly air purifier, preferably one with an activated carbon filter.
  • Cabin Air Filters: Ensure your car’s cabin air filter is clean and consider using one designed to eliminate odors.

3. Odor Neutralizers and Absorbers

  • Odor Neutralizing Sprays: Use products like Ozium, which are specifically designed to neutralize odors rather than just masking them.
  • Activated Charcoal: Place small bags of activated charcoal in the car to absorb odors.
  • Baking Soda: Leave an open container of baking soda in the car to help absorb smells.

4. Scented Products

  • Air Fresheners: Use car air fresheners to mask any lingering smell. Hanging air fresheners or vent clips can be particularly effective.
  • Essential Oil Diffusers: Use a small essential oil diffuser to introduce pleasant scents.

5. Proper Storage

  • Airtight Containers: Store any marijuana or related items in airtight, smell-proof containers.
  • Double-Bagging: If airtight containers are not available, double-bag the items in zip-lock bags.

6. Cleaning

  • Thorough Cleaning: Regularly clean your car’s interior, including seats, carpets, and upholstery. Use fabric refreshers or odor-eliminating sprays.
  • Steam Cleaning: Consider a deep steam cleaning for the upholstery and carpets to remove embedded odors.
  • Wipe Down Surfaces: Clean hard surfaces with a vinegar-water solution or an all-purpose cleaner.

7. Smoking Methods

  • Smoke Buddy or Sploof: If you must smoke in the car, use a Smoke Buddy or homemade sploof to filter exhaled smoke.
  • Vaporizers: Vaping produces less odor compared to smoking.

8. Quick Fixes

  • Dryer Sheets: Place dryer sheets under the seats or in the vents to quickly mask odors.
  • Coffee Grounds: Place a container of coffee grounds in the car overnight to absorb odors.

9. Personal Hygiene

  • Change Clothes: Change your clothes before getting into the car if they smell of marijuana.
  • Hand Sanitizer: Use hand sanitizer to remove any lingering scent from your hands.

10. Professional Help

  • Detailing Services: Consider a professional car detailing service that offers odor removal.

Preventative Measures

  • Limit Smoking in Car: Whenever possible, avoid smoking in the car to prevent the smell from building up.
  • Use Sunroof or Moonroof: If your car has one, use it for additional ventilation.

Combining several of these methods will be more effective than relying on just one. Regular maintenance and proactive steps will help keep your car smelling fresh and not attracting the unwanted attention of law enforcement.

Marijuana Possession Lawyers

If you find yourself facing legal challenges related to marijuana, seeking the guidance of a knowledgeable criminal attorney is crucial. At the Sherman Law Group, we provide expert legal advice and representation to ensure your rights are protected. Contact us today for a consultation and let us help you navigate the complexities of Georgia's marijuana laws.

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